The circular economy is gradually replacing the linear economy – in which we produced things, used them and then threw them away. Resources were turned into waste and waste ended up in landfills. That model is of course no longer sustainable, from either an environmental or social point of view. Humanity can no longer afford to consume resources without thinking about what will happen to the products made and their impact on the planet.
The circular economy offers a new paradigm, which is gaining traction at every level and in every geographical setting, as a realistic solution that combines market competitiveness and environmental sustainability through innovation.
It means rethinking production and consumption models to radically reduce the consumption of virgin raw materials and the production of waste. Using renewable energy sources and materials, extending the useful life of each product, creating sharing platforms, reusing and regenerating, rethinking products as services. These are all elements of the Circular Economy.
To achieve these goals, we need to think in terms of circularity from the outset: starting with product design and going all the way through to consumption and recovery.
Enel’s commitment to the circular economy began some years ago, with examples such as the Futur-e circular economy project for the repurposing of decommissioned power plants. Our model, which is based on the principles of the circular economy, focuses on environmental, social, and economic sustainability in order to identify, together with local stakeholders, potential circular and long-term solutions that can transform these areas into development opportunities for the community. Since then we have introduced the “sustainable construction site” model to all of the new Enel plants currently under construction. This is a global process to help share best practices and reduce social and environmental impact.
In general, we apply a circular approach throughout all stages in the life of our assets, from design to construction, operation, and up to the end of life.
To evaluate the effectiveness of our actions and measure their circularity, we have developed the CirculAbility model and has begun transformative projects in the Company’s various departments. Our Circular Procurement project, for example, is gradually being applied with our suppliers. They are key allies because converting a business to a circular economy model also depends on what happens before production begins, and this transformation can grow exponentially if all the suppliers are actively involved.
In this perspective of circularity by design, the Enel Grids business line is making new smart meters, starting with the regeneration of the previous models that are being replaced, and this has a significant impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions.
Through our Enel X business line, we also offer our services as circularity accelerators to industrial and public administration clients.
We have published several papers on the circular economy in which we explore a number of different aspects and applications. Each year, since 2018, the Group has published an overarching paper dedicated to circularity in urban environments: in 2018 the focus was on technologies, in 2019 on business models, in 2020 on public-private collaboration and, lastly, in 2021 it looked at the contribution of Circular Cities to decarbonization, with evidence of positive impacts not just on direct emissions, but also on indirect emissions. This latter document was presented and discussed at specific events arranged during the Pre-COP and during COP26.
Another report, Circl-e: from decommissioning to regeneration, prepared in collaboration with ARUP and Intesa Sanpaolo, our partner in the Alliance for the Circular Economy in Italy, looks at the benefits of regeneration forming part of the power plant decommissioning process.
Finally, in 2019 we joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Circular Economy 100 (CE100) network, the foundation that’s now a global opinion leader on matters relating to the circular economy.